Sperm Donors & Surrogate Mothers
Bollywood is finally coming of age, or so it seems, considering new and daring subjects and themes being experimented with by some, and finding acceptance at the ticket windows. Well, in a way we always had writers, producers and directors willing to go the extra mile by making films that were against the beaten track. BR Ishara made Chetna with newcomer Rehana Sultan; Rajinder Singh Bedi made Dastak with Sanjeev Kumar and Rehana Sultan dealing with the plight of a young couple who live in the red light area of a metropolis and Phagun with Waheeda Rehman, Dharmendra and Jaya Bhaduri; Kishore Sahu’s Dhuan ki Lakeer with which the vivacious Parveen Babi made her screen debut, to name just a few from a long list—not to talk of KA Abbas and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, purveyors of different schools of film making yet churning out meaningful cinema, with or without stars.
It was in 2002 that Meghana Gulzar made her directorial debut with Filhaal, featuring Sushmita Sen, Tabu, Sanjay Suri and Palash Sen that dealt with surrogate motherhood. Sadly, or so it seemed, the mainstream Hindi audience fed on stereotypes found the subject too alien. In 2010 producer Karan Johar commissioned his assistant Siddharth Malhotra to make We Are Family—an adaptation of Hollywood’s Stepmom—with Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal in the lead. It performed better in the UK, though at home it was declared ‘average’ despite the fact that the story was compelling and the subject not all that new even for small-town audience. The very next year producer Prakash Jha gave a break to one of his assistants, Alankrita Srivastava with Turning 30!!! with mostly unknown actors. It turned out to be a harebrained script with the protagonist unable to cope up with breakup with the lover, and her desperation to get him back. It tanked at the box office.
Earlier in 07, R Balki adapted Less Sugar as Cheeni Kam that dealt with romance between a 64-year-old chef and a 34-year-old woman. The film had Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu in the lead—it again did not cut much ice with the paying public. Moving away from his patent theme the same year Ram Gopal Varma attempted a remake of American Beauty in the form of Nishabd with Bachchan and Jiah Khan where a man flips for his young daughter’s seductive free-spirited friend. It again failed to muster support. Still one more year later Dil Kabadi by another debutant director Anil Senior lifted substantially from the English flick, Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (92) with Irfaan Khan, Rahul Bose, Soha Ali Khan and Konkona Sen Gupta deals with marital boredom and on-bed issues, as someone described it, but it again turned out to be a lackluster fare.
Bollywood has been notorious about stealing not only ideas, but even complete films frame-by-frame. So much so that when Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin became a super-duper hit director Mahesh Bhatt had unabashedly confessed: “This is a frame-by-frame copy of Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night.” But at that time Hollywood and other European producers hadn’t really been exposed to plagiarism of their creativity, as it began to happen later when Hindi films again found the overseas market, and some of the producers had been taken to court. But Bhatt was not the only guilty one, even directors like BR Chopra faced criticism for remaking Lipstick as Insaf ka Tarazu with Zeenat Aman, Raj Babbar, Padmini Kolhapure. And many more besides, though now, with greater awareness and considerable litigation unlicensed remakes are a rarity.
Things have been changing brisk and fast as new writers and directors take centre-stage. And succeeding despite sooth-saying prophets of doom, like, for instance John Abraham’s first home production Vicky Donor where the box office barometer has constantly been on the rise, both in multiplexes and single screen theatres. And daring to make it with newcomers all the way—the Delhi-based writer, Juhi Chaturvedi who approached the actor with the complete script; Yaami Gupta and Ayushyuman Khurrana, but the very talented director Shoojit Sarkar (his claim to fame, apart from advertising commercials was that he had directed a flop Yahaan—dealing with militancy in Kashmir with Manisha Lamba, Jimmy Shergil and Yashpal Sharma that got him the critic’s approval seven years ago and produced Aparajita Tumi based on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Dui Naari Haathey Torobaar).
In a way there is nothing original about Juhi Chaturvedi’s subject but there is everything new so far as treatment is concerned, together with the focus—sperm donation as a profession. Making a no-nonsense film on a subject that’s still taboo for majority of social and religious communities in the country required guts, and John Abraham’s status went up in the eyes of even his detractors. He is reported to have said, during the making of the film itself, “I somehow liked the subject when I read it for the first time and took active interest during the making which taught me a lot and prepared me to take on bigger challenges as a producer in future.” While Sarkar’s comment was: “I want to take a light-hearted look at the taboo attached to infertility and artificial insemination.” The film is expected to do a business of Rs 30 crore in the days to come, and according to unconfirmed reports a sequel is likely in 2013.
Next on the radar is Anurag Kashyap’s semi-period drama about coal mafia, and the plight of the miners in Jharkhand, the two-part Gangs of Wasseypur and Bombay Velvet five-hour 20 minute-long narrative with—believe it or not 25 item numbers—which has reportedly draw considerably from the exploits of politician Suryadev Singh, Binod Singh and Sakeldeo Singh who was convicted of murder with as many as 370 characters with 280 of them mouthing some dialogue or the other. It made waves at the ‘Director’s Cut’ fortnight at the recently-concluded Cannes International Film Festival.
Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai, a political thriller based on the novel ‘Z’ by Vassilis Vassilikos with Emraan Hashmi and Abhay Deol is yet another much-awaited film to hit the screens in June 2012. Interestingly, bubbling both with freshness and raw enthusiasm the new generation filmmakers are looking inwards, back to the roots to tell their stories rather than steal ideas that at best remain alien, and invariably lose steam when recreated for the Indian audience.
By Suresh Kohli